The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is known around the world for its dedication to both cutting-edge research and exceptional patient care. The Institute’s significant expertise in these areas has positioned its researchers to help develop and test several new cancer treatments in their laboratory and clinics. In fact, 35 of the 75 recently authorized cancer treatments were developed based on research conducted by Dana-Farber researchers. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, a federally designated comprehensive cancer center, as well as a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, a federally designated Center for AIDS Research, and a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.
The Institute is currently divided into two main campuses. One of which is located in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area and one in Chestnut Hill, MA. There are also several community-based locations across the state of Massachusetts that allow patients to receive Dana-Farber care, without the hassle of traveling into downtown Boston. The Institute now employs over 5,000 staff, faculty, and clinicians who support over 640,000 yearly outpatient visits, over 1,000 annual hospital discharges, and over 1,100 ongoing clinical trials.
Dana-Farber is primarily funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Jimmy Fund, the Institute’s main fundraising organization.
The Jimmy Fund
The Jimmy Fund is financed through community-based fundraising events and other activities that help Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s lifesaving mission of compassionate patient care and breakthrough cancer research. Countless lives have been saved and the burden of cancer for patients and families around the world thanks to the generosity of millions of people in Boston and around the world.
With the help of the Variety Club of New England (an organization that raises funds for multiple organizations within the Voluntary Health Associations and Medical Disciplines area), the Jimmy Fund officially launched in 1948. The club was able to coordinate a radio broadcast from the bedside of “Jimmy,” a young cancer sufferer who was visited by members of the Boston Braves baseball team (the predecessor of the Boston Red Sox). Since then, the Jimmy Fund has produced a series of short films that act as movie trailers, inviting viewers to learn about the Jimmy Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and to show their support.
Dana-Farber History and Major Milestones
Before the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute became what it is today, it was first known as the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation. This foundation was established by Sidney Farber, MD, with the purpose of providing compassionate, cutting-edge therapy to children with cancer while also creating future cancer preventatives, treatments, and cures. Within the following two decades, the foundation expanded its program to include patients of all ages. During this time the hospital was renamed in honor of its founder – the Sidney Farber Cancer Center. The name of the center was changed once more in 1983 in recognition of The Charles A. Dana Foundation’s (the Dana Foundation) long-term support when it officially became the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the Institute’s Major Milestones:
1954: The first remissions of Wilms’ tumor, a prominent form of childhood cancer, were achieved by Farber and his colleagues, who increased cure rates from 40% to over 80%.
1974: Drs. Emil Frei III and Stephen Sallan began the first of several clinical trials for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. These studies have made a significant contribution to the current cure rates of 85 to 90%.
1996: The knowledge of how HIV multiplies and infects healthy cells made significant progress thanks to Institute researchers. During this same year, the Eleanor and Maxwell Blum Patient and Family Resource Center opened, and the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge passed the $1 million mark with 400 participants running in the 100th Boston Marathon.
1998: Imatinib (Gleevec), a medication developed based on studies and research conducted at Dana-Farber, was shown to be highly effective in many patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
2001: Dana-Farber researchers discovered commonalities within cancer cells, indicating that many have surface proteins called PD-L1 that protect them from immune system T cells. This discovery paved the way for immunotherapy medications to be developed.
2010: The use of robotic technology in laparoscopic surgery on women with endometrial cancer was pioneered by surgeons at the Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. In the same year, the Institute generated $1.18 billion for cancer research and care, new technology, and the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care construction.
2012: Dana-Farber opened a community cancer clinic at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston’s Roxbury section.
2014: The Institute introduced two new initiatives to extend its regional clinical care network. The first is a collaboration between Dana-Farber and Steward St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, where Dana-Farber provides hematology and medical oncology services. The second is the purchase of Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology (CHO), New England’s largest community-based cancer treatment program. CHO has been renamed Dana-Farber Community Cancer Care as a result of the acquisition.
2015: The Molecular Cancer Imaging Facility debuted. The center has a cyclotron, which produces short-lived radioactive isotopes that allow researchers to investigate the biological activity of anti-cancer medications in the body without having to do invasive operations like biopsies.
2017: Scientists at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute introduced a personalized cancer treatment vaccine that targets specific “neoantigens” on tumor cells that can generate a potent, safe, and precisely focused anti-tumor response in melanoma patients.
2019: Dana-Farber established the Center for the Prevention of Progression, a first-of-its-kind clinic for patients with precursor disorders such as leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, or multiple myeloma who may develop a blood malignancy. By providing patients with a roadmap for clinical care and surveillance, the center assists scientists in developing drugs to prevent precursor disorders from advancing.
2020: Dana-Farber established new processes and regulations in response to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These new regulations assured that individuals could continue to be treated safely at the Institute and that staff could continue to work safely. Clinical research at the Institute stayed on track as a result of these efforts, with virtually all individuals remaining on clinical trials and new patients continuing to enroll in trials.
2021: The Dana-Farber – Chestnut Hill facility officially opened. During this same year, the US Food and Drug Administration provided approval of nivolumab (OPDIVO®), the first drug to target the PD-L1 protein on cancer cells, as well as approval for CAR T-cell therapy in adults with multiple myeloma, following a clinical trial led by Dana-Farber researchers.
Dana-Farber in the Community
The Dana- Farber Cancer Institute conducts community-based cancer prevention, detection, and control programs throughout the New England area. They also maintain joint programs with other Boston institutions affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the Partners Health Care System, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital, all while providing advanced training in cancer treatment and research for an international faculty. The Community Benefits office at Dana-Farber supports the Institute’s mission of lowering cancer risk among medically underserved communities.
Here are just a few of the life-changing programs that run through the Institute’s benefits office.
As a global leader in cancer research discovery and innovation, Dana-Farber is acutely aware that their groundbreaking research — and the innovative care that results from it — must be equally accessible to all patient populations. This is why Dana Farbar is committed to increasing the scope of our cancer disparities research, increasing the number of minorities participating in clinical trials and then bringing their findings into clinical practice and public health spaces across the world.
Since 2018, I have had the great honor of serving as a governing trustee on the Board of Trustees and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For more information, or to keep up to date on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, visit: https://www.dana-farber.org/